Glasgow is only about 74km (46 miles) west of Edinburgh, but the contrast between the two cities is noticeable. Glasgow (pronounced "glaaz-go" by natives) doesn't offer a fairy-tale setting such as Edinburgh, but compensates with a lively culture, big-city feel, and gregarious locals.
Glasgow's origins are ancient, making Edinburgh seem comparatively young. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of Roman settlements. In the 6th century, St. Kentigern (or St. Mungo) is believed to have begun a monastery at the site of Glasgow Cathedral, a hillside along a burn (creek) that feeds into the River Clyde. The site was logical for a settlement, as it was near a convenient point to ford the mighty Clyde before it widens on its way to the sea some 20 miles away. According to some translations, Glasgow, or glascau, means "dear green place."
Aside from the Cathedral itself, practically none of the medieval ecclesiastical center (including a university) remains. And much of its historical records (kept at the Cathedral) were swept away and lost during the Reformation.
The city became an economic powerhouse in the 18th century and quickly grew to be Scotland's largest city (as well as the fourth most populous in the entire U.K.). The boom began in earnest with the tobacco trade to the New World, where Glasgow outpaced rivals such as London or Bristol. The city then became famous worldwide for shipbuilding and docks that produced the Queen Mary and other fabled ocean liners. It was the Second City of the Empire. But postindustrial decline gave Glasgow a poor reputation - particularly in contrast to the enduring charms of Edinburgh.
In the 1980s, the city reversed its fortunes, becoming Scotland's contemporary cultural capital and drawing talent from across the U.K., whether in art or rock 'n' roll. Decades of grime were sandblasted away from its monumental Victorian buildings, and one of Europe's best collections of art - the Burrell - found a permanent home. In 1990, the city was named European Capital of Culture, thus certifying the changes that occurred.
That said, Glasgow is not a metropolis without flaws. Pockets of poverty remain in the city's peripheral housing projects (estates or schemes). A major motorway cuts a scar through the center of town - and not learning the lessons of its harmful effects, the city has another freeway planned to slash through the city's Southside. Although the city still appears to prefer knocking buildings down and erecting new structures at the slightest opportunity, the splendor of what architectural critics hailed as "the greatest surviving example of a Victorian city" is evident. The next big affair to come to the city is the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Glasgow is a good gateway for exploring Burns Country in Ayrshire to the southwest. Also on Glasgow's doorstep is the scenic estuary of the Firth of Clyde, with attractive coastal peninsulas and atmospheric islands only short drives and fun ferry rides away. From Glasgow, visitors can easily tour Loch Lomond and see some of the southern fringes of the Highlands or travel less than an hour away to Stirling and Trossach mountains.
This information is devoted to the when, where, and how of your trip - as well as the advanced planning required to get your traveling act together and take it, literally, on the road.
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